Raleigh Coffee Shop hires people with special needs

Saturday, September 28, 2019
321 Coffee
321 Coffee

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- 321 Coffee opened at the State Farmer's Market in Raleigh in March. It was started by a group of NC State students to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It's a first of its kind place in the Triangle to get coffee.

"My favorite thing to do is get coffee for people and come over here and do something. It's awesome," Dreyahna Grunow said.

Grace Chalker and Dryahna Grunow are two of the baristas at 321 Coffee. It's a special partnership between NC State students and young people with special needs.

"We're really working on incorporating these adults into all aspects of the coffee shop, and providing a really meaningful work opportunity for them," said 321 Coffee's CEO Lindsay Wrege.

While in elementary school, Wrege became good friends with Chalker and several girls with intellectual and developmental disabilities. As she grew older she wanted a way for people to experience their kindness and love. As a sophomore at NC State Wrege partnered with several other students to start 321 Coffee.

"I recognize that these adults don't have a lot of professional opportunities, that is meaningful. Sometimes it's cleaning bathrooms or folding napkins, very menial work when they're capable of a lot more. So I really wanted to start something that gave them an opportunity to show off what they can do, their values and learn professional skills just like anyone else," Wrege said.

The pop-up coffee stand on the NC State campus was a hit, so they set up a temporary vendor at the State Farmer's Market and in March the non-profit moved into a permanent spot.

"There's just been so much community support, we have a line almost every weekend when we're out here, which is so great. People come from 45 minutes to an hour away just to come and support our coffee shop. 04:45:59 Community support has been huge and I"m just so appreciative of everyone that comes out," Wrege said.

For the baristas who work at 321 Coffee on the weekends, it's an experience they cherish. Not only do they serve up coffee, they also serve a lot of inspiration to people in the community.

"We get families that come in that may have a newborn or a 6-year-old with Down Syndrome or autism and they come and see what a future could look like for their kid. And it's awesome to see the interaction between the baristas and the kids with disabilities. The parents are so inspired by what these guys are doing, it's very special," Wrege said.